Last year, Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom welded together the company's leading smartphone and the electronics from a high-end point-and-shoot digital camera. We liked it, but it wasn't perfect. The new K Zoom — Samsung has ditched the rumoured 'Galaxy S5 Zoom' moniker — is a refinement of the Korean company's original idea.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom took some of the best parts (and a few of the worst) from its Galaxy S4 flagship smartphone, and added a 16-megapixel point-and-shoot camera sensor with a collapsible 10x zoom lens (24-240mm equivalent). In the K Zoom, the general camera-on-a-smartphone idea is much the same, but writ large.
In a huge improvement from the Galaxy S4 Zoom, the new Samsung K Zoom is thin. It measures 20.2mm at its thickest point, although the rest of the smartphone is a more manageable 16.6mm. Its 138x71mm height and width are comparable to the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5, and not too far off the Nokia Lumia 1020 — which issignificantly thinner at 10.4mm. The K Zoom is only 200g, which may sound like a lot, but isn't when you consider that it's taking dual duties as a proper smartphone and a point-and-shoot camera.
The K Zoom hits the Australian market only a few months after the S4 Zoom became available, but it's better in almost every way. The imaging sensor has been bumped up to a 20-megapixel one, although the 10x 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens remains largely the same as the previous model. The 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor has an ISO range of 100-3200, so it's not as versatile as a premium point-and-shoot or mirrorless camera, but it'll be far more versatile than even the best smartphone camera.
Like the previous model, the K Zoom has a dedicated camera shutter button, but otherwise it's standard Samsung smartphone fare across the front, back and sides — apart from the large, offset zoom lens where the camera would otherwise be. The standard Samsung smartphone software suite is bolstered by a dedicated K Zoom camera app, with a few novel features — a 'Selfie Alarm' countdown timer for front-facing shots from the phone's 2-megapixel front camera, and 'Pro Suggest' — a range of post-processing filter effects.
You can rattle off three shots per second with autofocus in between captures — again, not proper camera territory, but a hell of a lot better than your average mobile phone. There's a dedicated autofocus assist light and a xenon flash — equalling Nokia's more photo-focused Lumia 1020. The Lumia may have more megapixels to boast about and a larger imaging sensor, but the K Zoom has a more versatile lens — and for everyday photography that's often the thing that matters most.
On the smartphone side of things, the K Zoom is a mid-range model. In the same way as the S4 Zoom had slightly pared-down specs from the S4 proper, the K Zoom uses a 4.8-inch 1280x720 pixel Super AMOLED touchscreen, uses a novel hexa-core application processor — a 1.3GHz quad-core and a 1.7GHz dual-core — and has 2GB of internal RAM. Only 8GB of onboard memory places the K Zoom in competition with entry-level smartphones, although it has a microSDXC-compatible card slot suitable for up to 64GB of expandable memory.
Samsung's K Zoom has been hinted at over the past month, but it'll be released soon — we're still waiting on local pricing and a firm on-sale date, though. Stay tuned.
Campbell Simpson travelled to Singapore as a guest of Samsung Australia.